Michael
Michael   United States
 
 
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I review games in my spare time for fun.
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35 Hours played
This game was reviewed using Version 1.0.4, and revised following the release of Version 1.2. Your experience on future versions may vary.

Short Answer:
A whimsical on-rails (and off-rails) photo-shooter that iterates and improves on genre entries before it to make an incredibly entertaining experience. Addictive gameplay, colorful characters, a heartwarming story, and a nostalgic charm throughout, with an attentive dev team that addressed most of my criticisms during my playthrough and the rest in the updates following it. Roughly 10-12 hours for $16, and absolutely worth your time and money to play. Easily my favorite game of 2021.

Long Answer:
Alekon is a game about imagination and creativity, and the pursuit to restore the Realm of Fiction, now fading from Dullness, by exploring your imagination from new perspectives through the power of Creativity. Less abstractly, it's a photography game in the style of an on-rails first-person shooter. The core gameplay is rather simple: you're placed on a moving track through a level with the goal of taking pictures of creatures known as "fictions" in a variety of poses. Some poses occur on their own, but most require you to discover them through a bit of environmental puzzle-solving. The pictures you take are then graded with points awarded based on size/center/angle/visibility, and new levels unlock when you gain a certain number of points. All of this might sound very familiar if you've played the N64 game Pokémon Snap or its long-awaited sequel that just released earlier this year. It'd be easy at first glance to call this a cheap clone trying to ride the coattails of the recently-revived series, but doing so would be seriously understating the quality and creativity that this game brings to the table. Though similar at its core, Alekon manages to shake up the Pokémon Snap formula to make something truly unique and, dare I say it, better in some regards than the series that inspired it.

There are a variety of smaller differences between Alekon and Snap, and whether they're better or worse is a matter of opinion:
  • The scoring system is simpler: rather than a precise and often confusing scoring system with thousands of points, the maximum for each category is 2--plus 2 freebies for just having a fiction in frame--for a max of 10 points.

  • When a photo is taken, you're provided an immediate audible/visual cue if what you took was new or improved from a previous photo, rather than having to wait until the session is over to see if you did a better job.

  • Along with the above, the game automatically picks out the best photo of each new/improved fiction pose so you don't have to try and guess which one is the winning shot.

  • Your camera has a cooldown between shots, adding another small layer of strategy to taking good pictures. This is balanced out with a much larger camera roll capable of taking 150 shots before needing to return to the hub.

There are some larger additions of note, as well. Every time you discover a new fiction, one of them is added to your hub, and each one has a little minigame you can play. These can range from jigsaw puzzles to quizzes to rhythm games and more, and the difficulty and quality of these minigames varies as much as their content--though they all help break up the core gameplay segments enough to keep it from getting boring. While most minigame rewards are rather simple (often the ability to customize different parts of the hub area), some offer new items or abilities that make it much easier to take better photos. The biggest and greatest change, however, is one I'm sure every player of this genre has wanted before: once you've played through a region's three on-rails levels, you unlock the ability to "wander" the map, free from any track or timer that would normally drag you down. This added free roam mode opens up a ton of options for inventive puzzles not possible in the traditional on-rails format, and Alekon uses this to its advantage exceptionally well. You'll likely spend the bulk of your playthrough wandering each region solving puzzles, finding secrets, or discovering new fiction poses you couldn't get before. What starts off like a guided tour through a nature preserve becomes a true exploration into a wild new world as you learn more about the lives and personalities of the fictions with each new photo.

Speaking of, there's plenty more going for Alekon than just its gameplay. "Creativity" is the theme and message of this game, and from art to characters to music, there's plenty of it to go around. Each region you explore is full of color and life, and while this is certainly due in part to its whimsical artistic direction, what truly helps breathe life into the Realm are the fictions that inhabit it. It'd be simple enough to just throw in a bunch of different creatures on each map, give them a silly name and design, and call it a day; but Alekon takes it a step further. Every fiction you meet embodies a concept--some more profound, others just plain silly--along with a personality that fits their concept and a backstory that reveals itself upon discovering new poses. Each one is given a grander purpose in the Realm, and seeing how these affect both hub interactions and puzzles in the Realm is what really helps you connect with the game. Though I haven't discussed the music yet, the game's soundtrack is as varied as its characters and environment, and equally as valuable to the experience. Music often weaves its way into the gameplay, and it helps to cap off an all-around pleasant adventure.

With all that said, my playthrough wasn't without issues; but being a game that released less than two weeks before playing, that's to be expected. I was ready to write in detail about everything I ran into--bugs, difficulties with minigames, troubles with basic mechanics, and so on--but as of writing this, pretty much every issue I had with the game during my playthrough has already been fixed. The development team has been both receptive to feedback and quick to address it, and feedback I personally sent regarding bugs and adjustments to certain mechanics got an immediate response and was patched in just a few days later. Between my initial review on v1.0.4 and now on v1.2, two of the most widely requested features have also been added: a reward for achieving a 10/10 score on all fiction poses, and fully remappable controller support. It's not to say that every single demand sent by the playerbase will be acted on, but it shows the team's devotion to their game that they're willing to accept the issues people may have and respond to them attentively, which is more than can be said for many studios out there.

Overall, it took roughly 12 hours to complete everything, though a player not striving for perfection can beat it in a bit less time. Even with the issues I had, I would have recommended this game, but the dev team's quick work improving it helped make it a sure thing. While I expect The Alekon Company to continue supporting this game for quite some time, I do hope the future gets to see more projects from this imaginative and devoted team. Alekon is a great evolution to the on-rails photo-shooter genre that's full of passion and old-school charm--not to mention my favorite game of 2021 in hindsight--and I have zero problems recommending it.

For more game reviews, check out my Curator page!
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Comments
Michael Mar 1 @ 4:49pm 
If you open the shop menu after beating the game, you should see a little arrow next to Sippy. Click that and it'll let you switch to play as the parrot.
MasterPusheen Mar 1 @ 4:46pm 
Hey, wanted to ask a question about Sippy Disco, you have the bird achievement, how were you able to play as the bird? Thanks :)
KliPeH May 25, 2023 @ 4:14am 
I really like your reviews! They're very thorough and well-written.